BREAKING NEWS : Hank Aaron, baseball legend and former home run king, dies at 86 Full Story

Despite coronavirus concerns, Inter Milan president Steven Zhang confident Serie A season will be completed

Inter Milan president Steven Zhang tells Alex Thomas that he believes the club can cope with a possible 23 games in 12 weeks in their bid for the Scudetto and Europa League glory.

Posted: Mar 7, 2020 12:11 PM
Updated: Mar 7, 2020 12:11 PM

As recently evidenced by Inter Milan's eerie Europa League clash against Ludogorets in an empty San Siro, sport without fans is no spectacle at all -- but it could become the new normal in Italy over the next few months as the country grapples with the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Inter president Steven Zhang says he is confident the Serie A season can be finished, even if it means playing matches behind closed doors.

Italy is battling Europe's largest outbreak of the virus with more than 3,800 cases and almost 150 deaths, leading Italian authorities to cancel several top-flight matches, including Inter's top-of-the-table clash against Juventus which was called off last weekend.

"Public health is the most important thing," Zhang told CNN's Alex Thomas at the FT Business of Football Summit in London. "That's why I think in order to make sure everyone is on the same page, everyone is taking the necessary action, protecting the ones around them.

"Obviously with the fans in the stadium, the matches will be more exciting. It's part of the experience of football. However, as we said many times, as a football organization, as a sport, or sport organization it will have big impact in society, its important that we always put safety and public health first.

"From experience, we must see China which is acting successfully reducing the crowds, reducing condensed areas, having less people moving in these areas will help the spreading of virus significantly.

"So in order to continue on the (Serie A) calendar, continue on the matches, but at the same time making sure safety is being touched by everybody in the country and society, I think this (behind closed doors) is a good solution for all of us."

READ: Inter Milan president calls Serie A counterpart 'clown' over handling impact of coronavirus

READ: Juventus donates leftover food to charity after coronavirus postpones Coppa Italia game

'Clown'

Just days after calling Serie A president Paolo Dal Pino a "clown" for his handling of the league schedule in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, Zhang was diplomacy personified on Thursday.

Zhang was unhappy that Dal Pino had chosen to reschedule Inter's match against Juventus rather than postpone it, something he believed would put public safety at risk.

Speaking on stage at the FT summit about his Instagram post, the 29-year-old Zhang said: "A lot of people think my words are strong but when protecting people and safety, words are never [too] strong."

"I'm not an expert on the health and on the virus," Zhang later told CNN. "But what I believe is that as long as we are taking the necessary steps, precautions, as what we've learned again from what we are doing in the China office or a lot of companies are taking the actions in China, we see that the situation can be better."

As a shareholder in Chinese real estate company Suning Holdings Group, which owns Inter and has offices in China, Zhang has first-hand experience of COVID-19's devastating effects.

He believes the Italian government's decision to shut down and quarantine parts of the country and close all schools and universities vindicates his tough stance against Dal Pino, but says that is now in the past.

"I think what happened before is not relevant anymore," Zhang told CNN. "But at least with the help from the government, all the stakeholder are on the same page now. We are taking the right steps from today.

"For the public it is not a very good condition. I think overall it's a difficult moment, a difficult situation for all the clubs, all the companies but as we see the improvements that they are trying to make and the recognition from the world health department (WHO), if we are taking the necessary step, sooner or later the situation will be improved.

"So I'm not too worried about it and at the same time I think its not necessary to have too much panic, as people are working and living everyday in the city around their families, they have to always look to do the necessary steps."

Title race

From a sporting perspective, the disruption has come at the worst possible time for Serie A.

The league is witnessing a thrilling title race between Inter, Juventus and Lazio as the Milan and Rome clubs bid to end Juve's eight-year stranglehold on the Scudetto.

However, should Inter reach the finals of the Coppa Italia and Europa League, Antonio Conte's side faces the prospect of playing 23 games in 12 weeks which could severely hinder its chances of a first Serie A title since 2010.

And with Juventus also competing in the Coppa and Champions League, that could hand the advantage to Lazio in the race for the Scudetto.

"I think now by starting the game this weekend, eventually we can finish the season and I think these are not difficulties only we are facing," Zhang said. "I think all the other clubs are having the same issues, but for sure step by step playing the games, week by week we can conquer the difficulties.

"When you are looking at sports events and league matches, especially those taking nine or 10 month or almost a year to finish, in the middle of it you never see or can never predict what can happen at the end -- and that's why sports are so exciting and fascinating for people.

"So even though there are some great moments, and even though maybe sometimes there are up and downs ... we can only judge by end of the season."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 601937

Reported Deaths: 9593
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion831111322
Lake44972678
Allen32498545
Hamilton29039315
St. Joseph27133380
Elkhart24291343
Vanderburgh19160246
Tippecanoe17799130
Johnson14871292
Porter14631167
Hendricks14188247
Madison10851219
Vigo10636178
Clark10520137
Monroe9299110
Delaware9055134
LaPorte8972160
Howard8134142
Kosciusko800382
Warrick665197
Hancock6575103
Bartholomew637999
Floyd6322109
Wayne6076161
Grant5937113
Dubois552578
Boone544967
Morgan530594
Henry503464
Marshall499884
Cass478663
Dearborn470745
Noble468357
Jackson420747
Shelby410781
Lawrence387478
Clinton370642
Gibson365559
DeKalb344264
Montgomery340754
Harrison340544
Knox333139
Miami317344
Steuben311545
Whitley301725
Wabash299747
Adams299035
Ripley296545
Putnam292049
Huntington288659
Jasper287634
White270340
Daviess266073
Jefferson257938
Fayette245148
Decatur244883
Greene238162
Posey236927
Wells233350
LaGrange226361
Scott221838
Clay220932
Randolph212148
Jennings195836
Sullivan190833
Spencer188019
Fountain182127
Washington182022
Starke174443
Jay166322
Owen162837
Fulton162330
Orange156333
Carroll155415
Rush153318
Perry151227
Vermillion147334
Franklin146933
Tipton130932
Parke13018
Pike115626
Blackford110522
Pulaski96137
Newton90521
Brown86833
Benton85910
Crawford7839
Martin72313
Warren6757
Switzerland6455
Union6227
Ohio4787
Unassigned0375

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 849704

Reported Deaths: 10518
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin100046706
Cuyahoga845231068
Hamilton63092447
Montgomery42660405
Summit34405754
Lucas31041611
Butler30546229
Stark25443429
Warren19436140
Lorain18767223
Mahoning17163337
Lake15882153
Clermont15697110
Delaware1422678
Licking13067137
Trumbull12680313
Fairfield1262180
Greene11915136
Medina11439167
Clark10802265
Wood10230158
Allen9774126
Portage9163107
Miami907373
Richland9035117
Marion7420113
Tuscarawas7280179
Columbiana7263124
Pickaway719550
Wayne6954169
Muskingum690741
Erie6090127
Hancock547590
Ross543487
Scioto533664
Geauga501155
Darke465591
Ashtabula449373
Lawrence447053
Union444928
Sandusky433062
Mercer432088
Huron423541
Seneca423465
Auglaize419662
Shelby419421
Jefferson415469
Belmont411240
Washington383340
Athens37379
Putnam372674
Madison349929
Knox347922
Ashland342538
Fulton335243
Defiance327782
Crawford319472
Preble318437
Brown307121
Logan304132
Ottawa289243
Clinton286643
Williams275866
Highland271818
Jackson261345
Guernsey249825
Champaign249328
Fayette234429
Morrow23014
Perry228318
Holmes222864
Henry216849
Hardin210133
Coshocton203521
Van Wert200545
Gallia194726
Wyandot193851
Pike172417
Adams172015
Hocking169824
Carroll153216
Paulding143221
Noble119940
Meigs106823
Monroe100331
Harrison87821
Morgan82229
Vinton68913
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
26° wxIcon
Hi: 27° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 16°
Angola
Cloudy
23° wxIcon
Hi: 24° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 10°
Huntington
Cloudy
26° wxIcon
Hi: 26° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 18°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
26° wxIcon
Hi: 28° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 16°
Lima
Partly Cloudy
28° wxIcon
Hi: 29° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 17°
Colder Friday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events